We are 10 days into April and the temperature has spiked to over 70 degrees in New York. This always happens! It’s cold, spring says hi for a quick minute, it gets cold again, and suddenly we are being teased with summer. I mean, nothing is definite but the warm sun on my face, my winter jacket hanging in my closet, and the reopened froyo place in my neighborhood are certainly a nice change of pace. To get back to books, April is a monster book month and my wallet is starting to sweat. Shopping thoughtfully for books is so tough when they are so many wonderful-sounding ones hitting the shelves. The library to the rescue!
Here are 3 books I adored in March
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Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg / Goodreads | Amazon | B&N / Throwback! I first read this book back in 2013. I remember sitting in my parent’s backyard and pouring over this story. I never forgot about the main character, Rafe. Rafe leaves the comfort of his out and proud life in Denver to go to boarding school in Massachusetts — where he decides not to declare himself gay. He’s just Rafe, free of labels for the first time in a long time, except he learns that not labeling himself actually leads to a lot of wrong labels and a super intense friendship with Ben, a sensitive jock at school, makes his new life spiral out of even more control. I love this book so much. It might be one of my top 10 EVER and for someone who reads at the speed I do, that’s saying a lot. I re-read it in March to gear up for the release of the sequel, Honestly Ben. It felt so wonderful to reunite with this cast of characters, relive the raw, beautiful moments, and see how the stories of these two character grew from one book to the next. Bill is THE KING of writing about sexual identification. | Young adult book from Scholastic Books; May 28, 2013.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour / Goodreads | Amazon | B&N / Oh. My. Gosh. Hands down one of the most beautiful books I’ve read ever. Beautifully painful as the main character, Marin, finds herself deep in an ocean of grief after her grandfather passes away. She’s an orphan, away at college, and ignoring everyone in her old life — including her best friend who she sorta kinda totally had a thing with. This book is gorgeously packaged, it’s succinct and poetic, and it made me cry in my cubicle. I secretly sent it to a friend and she called me a book therapist because I had sent her a book she didn’t even know she needed. (She is not a regular YA reader and I love to send her these books. They defy age when they touch us emotionally.) This is an important book about family, finding your people, making mistakes, and forgiveness. Do not, do not miss it. | Young adult book from Dutton Books; February 14, 2017.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas / Goodreads | Amazon | B&N / With this book topping the New York Times bestseller list for a few weeks in a row now, it front row and center on the shelves at B&N, I almost hesitate to mention it because surely, this means people are hearing about it and doing the right thing: buying it. But I need to make sure. Angie Thomas has created such a detailed, honest, all too realistic story as Starr Carter sees her childhood friend shot in front of her eyes when they are pulled over for a broken taillight by police. #BlackLivesMatter, calling friends out on their own racism, being caught between two lives, discovering our strength, and finding support in our family and friends. I want to buy a copy of this book for everyone, especially after the past 100 days with our new president in office. It’s not easy to read but it’s so multi-layered that I was surprised by the moments I was smiling and laughing because Starr’s family dynamics are incredible. | Young adult book from Balzer + Bray; February 28, 2017.
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Okay, April! You better knock my socks off. 🙂 Oh, if you are looking for some podcast recommendations, I’m highly suggesting Nerdette’s interview with Roxane Gay and Kelly Jensen AND Yoga Girl’s Manifesting Abundance episode.
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Until next time…xoxo
February, I barely knew ya. Another birthday gone (it was a nice one!), so many great movies (Hidden Figures and Moonlight!), lots of hot chocolate, and a few warm days where I shed the big jacket and the hat and was reminded just how much I love spring. I’M READY! (But also kind of not because I like how winter is all about snuggling and reading books on the couch, or in bed… I suppose that won’t change too much with a change in season but still! A blanket and a book make for a lovely pair.)
Speaking of books, here are three books I read this month that I hope you’ll add to your shopping or library list:
If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / This book unexpectedly popped up in an issue of Clover Letter that was left unread in my email box for an embarrassingly long time. For the record, I will champion Clover Letter — a newsletter full of news and strong females — until a pig flies over the moon but I usually collect a bunch and read them in bulk. Jill, the main character of this book, is a mechanic in her dad’s shop and finds herself in the middle of a rock and a hard place. Her relationship with her old friend/former crush is tense because of an unfortunate incident but she can’t seem to stop feeling something for him as much as she tries. But her friendship with the mysterious guy next door, a guy who is in a pickle himself, finds herself trusting a guy with secrets she hasn’t told anyone. So we kind of have ourselves stuck in a triangle, and I didn’t mind it. Jill’s chemistry with both of them is pretty great, and you don’t lose this character’s challenges in dealing with an absent mom and a dad who is unwilling to deal with the reality of their family. Promising debut by a new writer. Con: only white characters. | Young adult book from Harlequin Teen; October 25th, 2016.
100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagan / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / I was a big fan of Shari Goldhagan’s IN SOME OTHER WORLD, MAYBE and I totally forgot that she came out with a YA book until Miss Print reminded me. Molly has a part-time job at pet shop, a possible thing with the guy who works with her, and a mom who plans to bake a different cake for 100 days in a row to encourage time together and possibly cure Molly’s sads. Only Molly’s sads is actually depression. I’m a natural fixer and while the gimmick of 100 cakes (each chapter is named after one) wasn’t executed especially well, I did think this was an important and well-done look into depression. I have a few friends who very much want to progress forward but are stunted because of their depression, and I thought Goldhagan did a great job of explaining that type of feeling in the book — especially as we see what Molly has given up in extracurriculars and in her relationships because of everything she’s going through. I loved that she cared about her PT job so much; it reminded me of how much I enjoyed my after-school jobs in high school. 100 Days of Cake is definitely full of surprises and despite a few shortcomings, I really really liked the main character and read this whole book pretty quickly. | Young adult book from Atheneum Books for Young Readers; May 17, 2016.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / Why even go into detail?! Magan and I read this book at the same time and were so inspired, we recorded our conversation about it. (There are minimal spoilers, and I suggest you listen to the recording and not watch it because I touch my bangs a lot and it’s annoying. I’m working on that!) Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to the CEOs at their merged publishing company, and from Lucy’s very first day, she’s felt at odds with Josh. They play little games with each other; they are most definitely not friends. Told from Lucy’s POV, readers finds she’s a bit of a workaholic with an undecorated apartment and dreams of doing MORE in her company. Her world is turned completely on its head when she orchestrates a date for herself with another guy at her company and then finds herself in the company of Josh. IT GETS SO GOOD. THAT IS ALL I WILL SAY. Just read it. This book is so much fun, an attention grabber, with two great backstories. I wish all romances functioned this way. | Contemporary fiction from William Morrow; August 9, 2016.
Here’s to a new month of new books, warmer weather, and better time management? (A story for another day.)
Magan and I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment here or say hi on Twitter @readinggals or Instagram @readinggals too!
Oh, hey there!
Hello March, springtime, sunshine, and all of the best make-your-heart-happy books as you sunbathe. (Ideally, right?)
We hung out for a little while ‘in person’ to chat about THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne – a book that should be high on your radar for reading as soon as possible. We discussed the love/hate relationship between Lucy and Josh, crazy work dynamics and ending up in a job you never intended to have, and naturally digressed into some girl chat about makeup and life.
We filmed this on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got cozy in our own homes with our computers – Estelle in her apartment in NY and Magan from the comfort of her living room! We lost track of time, rambled a lot at the end about some of our favorite things, but had so much fun getting in some friend time.
We hope that you’ll enjoy our first in-person book chat!
- Have you read THE HATING GAME? What did you think?
- What are your favorite podcasts? We’re looking for more recommendations!
- We’ve both adopted a ‘read and release’ policy with our books to pass them along to other book-lovers. Are you a re-reader or do you pass your books off to a friend?
- Has anyone started a lending library? Any tips or advice for how Magan can start one?
Well, hello there!
*stretches fingers and warms them up over the keyboard*
Oh, where to start? Really I’m not quite sure, but I have so many thoughts floating through my head. I’m here and it’s been a long while and I’m sorry about that. Let’s see if I can rewind to kind of explain what was going on in my life to catch you up.
In 2015 I found out I was expecting my second baby. That was such a thrill and a joy — for those of you who’ve been around awhile, you know that me getting pregnant isn’t easy so there were lots of doctors appointments and fertility and shots involved. It all gets a little bit overwhelming and maybe that’s where it started. So much pent up frustration that my body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. For some time, though, I was slipping with my reading. I just couldn’t catch up or read as much as I wanted to, nor was I connecting to what I was reading.
I felt like I was reading a lot of lemons.
And maybe that’s a reflection of me? I got very caught up in the world of blogging and reviewing and I’m a people-pleaser to my core so when I accepted a book for review, I wanted to make sure I was going to follow through and get it done. If I reflect back on who I was as a reader when Rather be Reading first began, though, I was never a list reader. I never knew what was coming next. I chose by feeling and what I wanted to read at the time. Over the course of so many years that had changed and inevitably, so did my feelings about reading. It became a chore.
So with my pregnancy and being tired and having to take progesterone that just made me want to vomit, the disconnect between reading and me grew to the size of the Grand Canyon. I tried to read friends’ absolute favorite reads. I tried re-reading Harry Potter. I tried switching to adult books instead of YA. Nothing worked. I found myself not even wanting to talk to my best friend about books because I just felt lost in my reading life.
Everett with her newborn baby sister, Gentry
Life continued to happen. We stepped in when our former foster daughter’s family became homeless. I found myself in my third trimester of pregnancy taking care of our biological daughter, E, and two little girls through the Safe Families Program. We had a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1-year-old in our house and exhaustion was etched into every crevice of my being. It’s not the mere fact that we were chasing three active children — this story runs much deeper and for their privacy as well as my own, I’ll just simply say that I’ve never shed more tears or felt like I’d been called to this great task to do something I felt so ill-prepared for. (And thank goodness we had an army of people around us who would literally let me cry out all my frustrations and offered so much help.)
We transitioned very quickly from being parents to three girls to back to only Everett with a few remaining weeks before our second baby was due. It felt like such a whirlwind experience and I really needed to soak up as much of my baby as I could because she handled our October to January transition very, very well, but I knew bringing a baby home from the hospital might not be easy on her, especially after all of that.
We tried taking photos in a field of bluebonnets. It wasn’t a very successful trip, but oh, I love this photo!
Gentry arrived at the end of January and … I don’t know how far to really go into all of this. I’m sure I’ll save some details for later, but have you ever lived through something and thought that things were going okay, only to look back and think, “Holy crap! That was so much harder than I realized!” That’s precisely how I feel about our last year. (Gentry just turned one a few weeks ago.) Motherhood is just hella hard. I don’t know if we’ll have any more biological babies, but breastfeeding and recovery and this feeling of losing myself a little bit to a human who so depends on my livelihood is really difficult. I’ve never thought, in the midst of things, that I suffered from post-partum depression, but with both of my babies, there’s been this moment of feeling like I’m coming up for a breath of fresh air after spending a really long time underwater, fighting for my life.
Working on raising some little readers!
Maybe there’s more going on than I’ve ever realized, but I’m finally at that refreshed and renewed part of my life. I feel like I’m taking care of myself and liking who I see in the mirror. I don’t feel like I’m floundering and that quite so much is out of control anymore. I’m happy with work (forgot to mention that I also started a new job last year as a children’s book consultant, but am still doing photography, too) and am working out, reading when I can, prioritizing family time, and just really, really happy.
I feel like I’m finally in this good place to come back here this little piece of the internet to embrace all of my bookish friends. I’m so sorry it’s been a while. I hope you’ve looked at our absence as a “See you later” instead of a “Goodbye.” I don’t think Estelle or I have it in us to completely cut off all writing, sharing, and reading, and I’m ever so thankful that despite the silence on the blog, I’ve had my friend to help me through lots of life chaos.
So…hello! Hi! How are you?
The Blasig Family (L to R): me, Gentry (1), Everett (3), and Dustyn
My January was full of yoga, Twitter panic, LEA MICHELE, and a lot of Jane the Virgin. (I’m almost caught up on Season 2, finally!) So truth time. Magan and I announced we are back in some capacity, and we are still figuring out what exactly that capacity is. We’re playing it by ear, and I’m hoping by completing one of my fitness challenges will free up a little but more time for writing on here. We do hope you’ll follow along as we figure all of this out. But I popped on WordPress to talk books and HERE I AM.
I’m going to keep it simple. I’m sure you have lots to do. (Dishes? Nails? Paying attention to the holiday cards you still haven’t finished? Um. Not talking about me at all.) Focus, Estelle. Here are three books I hope you’ll check out super soon:
Wrecked by Maria Padian / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / Since my November tropical vacation, I’ve been in a a reading rut. I’m blaming it on the election, but I think it started a wee bit before that. It was not until I picked up Wrecked that I felt I found my reading groove again. I don’t think you hear that kind of thing very often about books on rape but it’s true for this one. Told from the POVs of Haley, the victim’s roommate, and Richard, the accused housemate, Wrecked unveils the behind-the-scenes details of a full-on rape investigation on a small college campus and just how challenging these cases can be. The strategy, the bullying, the loneliness, and the fuzzy details. It takes real skill from an author to take a reader, so confident in what happened, and turn them into a ball of frustration because what they thought was true might not be so at all. This feeling, almost vulnerable-like, heightened the anxiety of every scene and made me even more obsessed to reach to the finale. I wish I had had this book in high school. I wish we had been discussing political correctness. I wish we were discussing consent. I fear too many will pass up Wrecked because of the difficult subject matter but, to me, that’s more reason to pick it up. We need knowledge. We need to be thoughtful. We need to be open to learning from each other. We need to respect each other. Now more than ever. | Young adult novel from Algonquin Young Readers (October 2016).
The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / I love when my favorite authors challenge me in new ways, and Corey has certainly done that in her latest YA book about a street in Brooklyn, bound in curses, tradition, love and grief. In this alternate version of our world, the main character, Lorna, and a few of her closest friends continue to reel from an attack in NYC that destroyed Times Square. The Affected are honored constantly; Lorna cannot escape this part of her story. Neither can she escape the “curse” of her street: that the boy she falls in love with will die. An older woman on the street tries to shield Lorna and her friends from love but this curse can’t keep feelings at bay. There’s so much to discuss in this beautiful and heartbreakingly layered book. What happens when you allow grief to run your life? What do we really know about love? How can we guarantee that love is real and we can keep those we love safe? It’s tough stuff, but, as always, Corey tells this story thoughtfully and with so many feelings and brilliant, little details. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. | Young adult novel from Dutton Books (January 2017).
Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / As I await Liza Palmer’s upcoming book, I’m still working through her backlist and dug out this little gem. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the cover and the title and I have a feeling if the book had been published in 2017, we might be looking at something a little different. Yes, this is a book about a girl who is overweight but her weight is hardly the whole focus of this story. Instead, we find a 26-year old at a total crossroads. Can Maggie remain best friends with her unsupportive childhood bestie (who, sidenote, also had gastric bypass surgery and pretends her younger years never happened)? Why the eff is she still working at a coffee shop when she wants to be working in a museum? Will she ever ask that cute guy out? I loved that this book asked the question: “If you can’t even choose yourself, how can anyone else?” IT’S A HARD QUESTION, and there is so much work for Maggie to do. And guess what? At 26, 32, 45, we may not still have our lives figured out but there doesn’t mean there isn’t time to make a change. We can only be good to others when we are good to ourselves. AND this has very little to do with our romantic love lives. Liza hit me where it hurts with the breakdown of Maggie and Olivia’s best friendship. It was so honest and it felt cathartic to see something so relative on the page. I love when books make you feel less alone, and soothes similar aches. A slow start but a strong, strong finish. | Contemporary fiction from 5 Spot (September 2005).
On the docket for me this month: The Odds of Lightning by Jocelyn Davies, The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek, and Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr.
Let’s see how this “plan” goes. Friends, hope to hear from you in the comments or on social! What book should I be adding to my nightstand? Or just send me some hearts. 🙂
I’ve been trying to write about my relationship with books in 2016 for the past week. I’ve scrolled through my list of top 10 books of the year — a list that has steadily remained at seven reads for the past few months — and tried to add others but fell short. I looked through notes I scribbled down in Goodreads when I was particularly jazzed about a read, and grew upset with myself for not being more detailed.
The question is: how do you measure your reading life after recording your reading life pretty routinely for almost five years and then stopping cold turkey?
The answer is: I’m not entirely sure.
Here are a few things I could say: I read Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King because my boss at one of my side hustles sent me a galley. It utterly changed my reading life, and I immediately ordered a copy to send to my sister. I loved it so much that I was too shy to go up to Jeff when he traveled to New York City for one of my favorite annual events of all time: NYC Teen Authors Festival (a festival I never would have started attending if it wasn’t for this blog). I went on a job interview for a job I would eventually get after a weekend of being snowed in and talked up Courtney Summer’s All the Rage and Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things. Both so wonderful for such different reasons. Later that summer, during Independent Bookstore Day, I convinced one of my oldest friends to buy a copy. On a long bus ride to the beach, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand kept me company. It’s the perfect middle grade mix — magic mixed with realism, love mixed with confusion, and family paired with self-discovery. This was another doggy earred galley I left on my sister’s bed during a visit home. I picked up The First Time She Drowned because Jeff Zentner plugged it, was instantly taken by the beauty and pain of the book, and passed it along to a friend a few months later when her mom passed. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy read for her, but I also knew she had a lot of the strength the main character possessed and this was the best way I could tell her. And then there was a recommendation from the dependable Emma and the discovery of a brand new author: Leah Konen. The warm summer afternoon I gobbled up One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid and immediately passed it to my close friend from college. (It was a year of passing it on.) And the incredible second book by Juliana Romano, The Summer in the Invisible City, that had my hand yearning to write, pick up my own story, and challenge myself to write just as well. (Impossible but still. I was inspired and continued to be. You’ll be shocked to know I bought my sister a copy of this for Christmas. Note to self: has she read any of these yet?)
This is the first year in five years where I bought less than 12 book for myself in a year. This does not mean I didn’t buy a lot of books for others because I did. (Like the incredible and addicting middle grade from Natasha Friend: Where You’ll Find Me.) I read so many books from my own library, from stacks that line my apartment walls, and donated over 75 of them in one fashion or another. (There is one happy reader in my apartment building.) I stopped — we stopped — writing here for so many reasons but one of mine was to simplify. I thought if I took a break from here, I would be able to concentrate on other projects. More private ones. And I did. And I didn’t. And I rediscovered what it means to love a book and share it with your friends who understand you and not rush and not feel any pressure. I took out over 75 books from my library this year, I paid probably 50 dollars in fines, but I know I shopped thoughtfully this year. I reminded myself countlessly that there are a million ways to support authors, even if you aren’t buying a book as soon as it comes out. Hey, I even introduced my cube neighbor to Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I Loved Before and delighted in our conversations about if she was Team Peter or Team Josh. It was organic, and so fun! (Another note: just because a platform pauses/closes, doesn’t mean a voice stops recommending and encouraging people to buy your books.)
2016 was not my best reading year. I put a lot of books down. I read 100 pages, and decided if I really didn’t want to pick a book up at night, what was it doing my nightstand? Like everything else that is a hobby, it’s okay to make those decisions. It’s okay to know your limits and want to FIND JOY. (I did finally read On the Island and I’m kicking myself because people have been singing its praises forever. Oh, and then Little Women — I tackled my goal of 26 years by actually finishing it.) My priorities may have shifted to personal projects and fitness and watching all seven season of Gilmore Girls, but I have missed this space. I know I’m lucky because I’ve been able to channel my love for this space and this community at work, and have a great time doing it. But I miss brainstorming and laughing with my friend over books; I miss having a project to gap our distance. For almost a year now, I’ve struggled with (and maybe this is what the age of digital is all about) who I am as a blogger and who I am as an actual publicist. (One of my proudest/scariest moments I had this year was speaking on a panel about blogging and my professional life at the wonderful BlogBound.) The support and incredible relationships I made because of this blog mean so much to me. I respect what you do because I’ve done it too. I know it’s a labor of love, and I know how much authors and the books we love need the genuine passion you express in whatever way you wish. This blog and all of the experiences connected to it have made me better at my job, it’s made me even more of a creative thinker, and it’s made me love the art of collaboration so much more than I ever have.
It’s a new year, and it feels right to be back here with Magan. We’re celebrating six years of friendship at the end of January, and I feel luckier than ever — to be surrounded by books, fierce and imaginative people, and the freedom to sit here and write this to you. I’m ready to learn more about others and myself too.
Here’s to 2017 — to reunions, rediscovery, and curiosity.